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Primary Medical Condition
For Medical Cannabis Use

August, 2002

Using our albeit limited polling resources, the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis ran a front page website poll asking patients to identify the major reason they utilized medical cannabis. Of course, such a poll is not scientific but it does provide results from 500 patients who responded.

This large number of patients was asked to choose between six categories to identify their major diagnosis. Here are the results:

  • Chronic pain -  156     31%
  • HIV / AIDS -       19       4%
  • Cancer -            27       5%
  • Depression -   129     26%
  • Migraine -         57     11%
  • Other -           112     22%

While chronic pain is cited more often than any other single condition (31%), self reported depression (actually a broad category of illnesses) came in a close second (26%). It would have been nice to be able to ask respondents to choose both a primary and secondary condition. In that event we might have seen some linkage between chronic pain and the depression that so frequently accompanies it. Regardless, we can see that psychiatric medication with cannabis is common. In view of the fact that repeated double blind studies of the new SSRI drugs like Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac have shown virtually no benefit beyond placebo, perhaps these patients know more than their psychiatrists what works for them.

Another fascinating result is the large number of patients (57 or 11%) who report migraine as their primary medical condition. This number is larger than HIV and Cancer combined (4% and 5% respectively). It is noted that migraine has a higher incidence and prevalence than either cancer or HIV. Prior to the prohibition of cannabis in the 1930’s, cannabis was the primary drug prescribed for headache. Obviously, it still works.

We’re interested to know just what the "other" category is comprised of. More than one in five patients (112 or 22%) reports "other" which may include such diseases and disorders as MS, diabetes, HCV, Tourette’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and others. Future polls may seek to elucidate other conditions in more detail.

One major result from this poll is that decision makers must be more careful when writing medical cannabis laws that delineate what conditions "qualify" for cannabis. Cannabis is most certainly not just for terminal illness but more likely for a large number of chronic conditions. Patients in States that have a "list" of appropriate conditions are blocking many legitimate patients from appropriate adjunctive therapy with cannabis. These States (i.e. Colorado) insist that the patient produce findings to justify their use of cannabis for an "off list" application yet research is virtually banned in the United States making documentation nearly impossible.


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